Liz Truss dismisses Macron suggestion UK might be keen on joining new European political community – UK politics live | Politics

Truss dismisses Macron’s suggestion UK might be keen on joining new European political community

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has just started giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee. There is a live feed at the top of this blog.

On Sunday Emmanuel Macron, the French president, came away from a meeting with Boris Johnson under the impression that the UK was enthusiastic about his plan for a “European political community” – a proposed new grouping, taking in European countries in the EU and outside it.

But, when Tom Tugendhat (Con), the committee chair, asked Truss, if the government was keen on joining, she replied: “That’s not true.” She said the government sees Nato as the key defensive alliance for Europe, and the G7 as the key economic alliance for Britain.

Liz Truss giving evidence to foreign affairs committee
Liz Truss giving evidence to foreign affairs committee Photograph: HoC

Back at the foreign affairs committee Chris Bryant (Lab) is asking Liz Truss about sanctions, and why the Foreign Office has been so slow in applying Magnitsky sanctions. In response, Truss jokes that she would be happy to give him a job in the Foreign Office’s sanctions department. “I’d love one,” he replies. He would also like to be an ambassador, he says – except he admits he is not very good at diplomacy. But Truss – who had a tricky exchange with Bryant earlier (see 11.29am) – seems to like that idea. “That would kill two birds with one stone,” she says.

The Conservative MP Pauline Latham is joined those Tories urging cabinet ministers to mount a coup against Boris Johnson and force him out of office, the BBC’s Georgia Roberts reports.

Mid-Derbs Con MP Pauline Latham (who voted against PM in confidence vote) says time for cabinet to “push” PM out – says even if in event of 1922 rule change letters threshold met again “most PMs would then do the decent thing and resign but Boris won’t”, it’ll “fall on deaf ears”

— Georgia Roberts (@GeorgiaZemoreyR) June 28, 2022

“The problem is many of (the cabinet) think they’re going to keep their job for a long time and don’t want to. But actually what’s more important; the country or the party, or your own job?”

— Georgia Roberts (@GeorgiaZemoreyR) June 28, 2022

Points to solid support among 2019 intake as another barrier to movement but doesn’t think PM “will be the person to lead us” into next GE – in meantime, calls for need to return to conservative policies; “where’s the agenda, where’s the conservative agenda people voted for?”

— Georgia Roberts (@GeorgiaZemoreyR) June 28, 2022

PA Media has filed more on the exchanges between Liz Truss and Chris Bryant about the Gulf states earlier. (See 11.29am.)

Pointing out that Truss has said the government is committed to ending its dependence on authoritarian regimes for energy, Bryant asked Truss how she would describe the Gulf states. Truss replied:

I would describe the Gulf States as partners of the United Kingdom. Is every country that we work with exactly in line with United Kingdom policy on everything? No, they are not. But they are important allies of the United Kingdom.

Bryant then asked asked if the Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Truss replied:

What I would say is that Saudi Arabia is an important partner of the United Kingdom.

What I am focused on is making sure we are dealing with the major threats to the world. The number one threat we are dealing with at the moment is the threat from Russia.

In order to do that, we need to make sure we have alternative energy sources.

We are not dealing with a perfect world. We are dealing in a world where we have to make difficult decisions and I think it is right that we build that closer trading relationship with the Gulf States.

Back to Scottish independence for a moment, and the Scottish Conservatives have argued that Nicola Sturgeon does not have a mandate for a second independence referendum, because the SNP did not win an outright majority in the Scottish parliamentary elections last year.

But, as the BBC’s Glenn Campbell reports, Prof Sir John Curtice, the leading elections expert, has pointed out that her mandate for independence is at least as good as the mandate Boris Johnson had for his Brexit deal after the 2019 general election.

PM should face second no confidence vote if he tries to ignore or suppress report saying he lied to parliament, Steve Baker says

Yesterday David Davis, the Conservative former Brexit secretary who is one of the Tory MPs who have publicly called for Boris Johnson to resign, said that it would be wrong for the backbench 1922 Committee to change the rule that means Johnson cannot face another no confidence vote for another year.

In an article in the Times today Steve Baker, another prominent Brexiter who now wants Johnson to quit, says the party should be reluctant to change well-established rules. But he also says in some circumstances it might be essential for the 1922 Committee to allow another no confidence ballot – for example, if Johnson were to ignore or suppress a privileges committee report saying he lied to parliament.

If Johnson is found by the privileges committee to have knowingly misled the Commons, then he would be under an obligation to resign. If he were not to resign in those circumstances, it may prove necessary to take action to remove him. It is one thing to make an inadvertent error, but intolerable to deliberately mislead.

Other circumstances are foreseeable. If the prime minister were to attempt to avoid publication of the report of the privileges committee by calling a general election, that might require action. If, after an adverse report, a motion of confidence in the prime minister were placed before the Commons and Conservative MPs ordered to vote for it under threat of losing the whip, that too might demand immediate action.

Baker is standing for election to the 1922 executive and the article amounts to an election pitch, explaing the circumstances in which he would push for a second no confidence vote. On this issue, it is probably fair to assume that he is making an argument that many Tory backbenchers would support.

Steve Baker.
Steve Baker. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

Truss says aid spending should be more focused on promoting freedom and democracy

The Foreign Office is now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, following its merger with the old Department for International Developments. Liz Truss told the committee that in the past she thought the aid budget was not sufficiently focused “on promoting freedom and democracy” and she said some aid money would now be spent on a G7 initiative intended to challenge China’s Belt and Road initative.

Truss insisted alleviating suffering was still a priority for aid spending, but the Independent’s Rob Merrick was not convinced.

There you have it….

Liz Truss makes clear UK aid spending is now focused on…

“promoting freedom & democracy around the world”

to “challenge the Chinese Belt & Road initiative”

The aim of relieving poverty….is dead

— Rob Merrick (@Rob_Merrick) June 28, 2022

UPDATE: This is from PA Media on these exchanges.

Liz Truss said that humanitarian and geo-political concerns both play a role in development spending.

Taking questions from committee chairman Tom Tugendhat on whether development spending was a tool of diplomacy, she said: “It has various purposes, but it has to be a coherent part of our foreign policy.”

She said that one of her concerns over development spending in the past has been whether it is “contributing to our overall objectives of promoting freedom and democracy around the world and are we looking at it in a way that challenges some of the geo-political efforts by malign actors?”

Referencing China’s Belt and Road infrastructure plan, Truss said: “We need to be, of course, focused on alleviating humanitarian suffering, but we also need to look at the future geo-politics.”

Back at the foreign affairs committee Chris Bryant (Lab) told Liz Truss she said the government wanted to end its reliance on authoritarian regimes for energy. “How would you describe the Gulf states?” he asked.

Truss said she would regard them as partners of the UK.

When Bryant put it to her that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi, and that Saudi Arabia had carried out 81 executions in one day, Truss said it was an important partner for the UK. “We’re not dealing with a perfect world,” she said, although she did not accept Bryant’s request to accept that the country was authoritarian.

She also claimed that she did raise human rights issues with the Gulf states. But when Bryant asked her to tell the committee the last time she did raise a human rights issue with a Gulf state leader, she said she would have to get back to the committee with the answer.

Pamela Duncan

The population of England and Wales is bigger, at close to 60 million people, and older than ever before, according to the results of the 2021 census released by the ONS this morning.

On Census Day, 21 March 2021, the combined resident population in England and Wales stood at 59,597,300, the largest population ever recorded in a census and a 6.3% increase on the 2011 tally.

The population is also growing older with more people than ever before in the older age groups: close to one-in-five people (18.6%) were aged 65 or over at the time of the last census, up from 16.4% a decade earlier.

England’s population grew by almost 3.5 million in the past 10 years, an increase of 6.6%. Wales’s population grew at a considerably slower rate: there were 44,000 more people living there in 2021 than a decade earlier, a 1.4% rise.

The female population stands at 51% in England and Wales with 30,420,100 women and girls and 29,177,200 men and boys recorded as being ordinarily resident in 2021.

Truss dismisses Macron’s suggestion UK might be keen on joining new European political community

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has just started giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee. There is a live feed at the top of this blog.

On Sunday Emmanuel Macron, the French president, came away from a meeting with Boris Johnson under the impression that the UK was enthusiastic about his plan for a “European political community” – a proposed new grouping, taking in European countries in the EU and outside it.

But, when Tom Tugendhat (Con), the committee chair, asked Truss, if the government was keen on joining, she replied: “That’s not true.” She said the government sees Nato as the key defensive alliance for Europe, and the G7 as the key economic alliance for Britain.

Liz Truss giving evidence to foreign affairs committee
Liz Truss giving evidence to foreign affairs committee Photograph: HoC

Labour is increasingly using the phrase “backlog Britain” to attack the Conservative government’s record. Today it has embedded that critique in an opposition day motion being debated in the Commons later. This is what it says.

That this house notes that UK economic growth is forecast to grind to a halt next year, with only Russia worse in the OECD; further notes that GDP has fallen in recent months while inflation has risen to 9.1% and that food prices, petrol costs and bills in general are soaring for millions across the country; believes that the government is leaving Britain with backlogs such as long waits for passports, driving licences, GP and hospital appointments, court dates, and at airports; and calls on the government to set out a new approach to the economy that will end 12 years of slow growth and high taxation under successive Conservative governments.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, has had a go at the Guardian.

The FT’s Brexit specialist, Peter Foster, has posted a good thread on Twitter explaining why Rees-Mogg seems to be wilfully missing the point.

Bookmark this tweet. It’s not “The Guardian” that is worried about the dangers of not having full checks on EU food imports after #Brexit, it’s the flipping Food Standards Agency…and the British Veterinary Association, the National Pig Association, the National Farmers’ Union/1 https://t.co/kiIrbIz43u

— Peter Foster (@pmdfoster) June 28, 2022

Welsh government pilots basic income for young people leaving care system

The Welsh government has launched its basic income pilot scheme aimed at helping young people as they leave the care system, PA Media reports. PA says:

From July 1, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1,600 each month before tax for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

The £20m pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

The scheme will be limited to care leavers who reach their 18th birthday between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023.

It will run for three years with each person taking part receiving the basic income payment for 24 months from the month after their 18th birthday.

And participants can choose whether to receive the money monthly or fortnightly.

Commenting on the plan, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister who worked as a social worker and a social policy lecturer before entering politics, said:

We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential.

The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society.

If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.

Later today we will be launching our radical basic income pilot.

Simply put – this scheme gives care leavers a guaranteed monthly income to help set them on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

We’ll explain in more detail in today’s press conference. pic.twitter.com/PUHv44AfRK

— Mark Drakeford (@PrifWeinidog) June 28, 2022

The Welsh Conservatives have criticised the plan. Joel James, shadow minister for social partnership, said:

It’s been proven time and again that so-called universal basic income doesn’t work.

Look at Finland, who ditched their scheme after two years in favour of a new scheme that encouraged people to actually take up employment or training.

We recognise that this is a vulnerable group and they need extra support, but this is completely the wrong way to go about it and could well create more problems than it solves.

It’s typical Labour, but it’s obvious that giving out free money won’t be a quick fix.

Here is a question from BTL.

@ Andrew. Can we please have a list of who did and didn’t vote for the NIPB last night?

You can always find division lists on the Commons website here.

Here is the page with MPs who voted for the Northern Ireland protocol bill. Here is the list of MPs who voted against. And these MPs did not vote.

The BBC’s Philip Sim has posted an interesting thread on Twitter looking at Nicola Sturgeon’s options ahead of her statement today. It starts here.

Big day at Holyrood – Nicola Sturgeon’s “significant” update on indyref2 is set for 14:20. You can watch live on the BBC Scotland channel, and we’ll have full coverage online and everywhere else. But what are we likely to hear? A thread of speculation… https://t.co/hzOVSeKprr

— Philip Sim (@BBCPhilipSim) June 28, 2022

Sim says that, with Sturgeon wanting to hold a referendum that would be legal, and that would deliver independence, her options are limited given the UK government’s refusal to consent to one. He says today’s announcement will be a rare example of one where the key items have not been briefed in advance.

Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting at Elmau Castle at the G7 summit.
Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting at Elmau Castle at the G7 summit. Photograph: Getty Images

Boris Johnson seems to have no qualms talking about the UK’s support for the rule of law (see 9.36am) even though last night parliament voted for the Northern Ireland protocol bill, which is widely seen as breaking international law. Our story about the vote is here.

The highlight of the debate was probably the speech from Theresa May, the former Conservative prime minister, who did an effective job demolishing the government’s argument that the “doctrine of necessity” in international law makes the bill legal.

The bill passed easily – by 295 votes to 221 – and none of the Conservative MPs who expressed doubts or opposition to the bill voted against it. But 72 Conservatives did not vote. Some of them may have been paired against the 36 Labour MPs who did not vote but the figures suggest several dozen actively abstained.

Boris Johnson thanked his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, for his support over the Ukraine crisis when they held a bilateral meeting at the G7 summit in Germany this morning, No 10 said. A Downing Street spokesperson said:

The prime minister praised Prime Minister Kishida for his staunch support for the Ukrainian people in opposition to [Vladimir] Putin’s barbarism in Ukraine.

They agreed that the unity of thought between G7 leaders on this issue has strengthened Ukraine’s hand in the war and will continue to do so.

The prime minister underlined the UK’s support for rule of law and sovereignty everywhere in the world.

Democratic leaders must stand together in opposition to challenges to our values. The leaders agreed to continue to work to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The prime minister and Prime Minister Kishida agreed that the work the UK and Japan are doing together to develop the next generation of fighter planes is hugely valuable to our countries and will form the basis of UK-Japan co-operation for a generation to come.

Boris Johnson with the Japanese PM Fumio Kishida (left) at the G7 summit in Bavaria today.
Boris Johnson with the Japanese PM Fumio Kishida (left) at the G7 summit in Bavaria today.
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Nicola Sturgeon criticised over Scottish referendum plans

Good morning. We’ve only just passed the sixth anniversary of the Brexit referendum – an extraordinarily divisive and epochal event that changed Britain fundamentally – and today we will get a speech putting another referendum firmly on the table. When the Scots voted to remain part of the UK eight years ago, the unionist campaign said voting no to independence was the only way to guarantee that Scotland would remain part of the EU. Two years later that promise was blown apart, even though Scotland voted decisively for remain, and ever since then the SNP has been planning actively for what social media calls IndyRef2.

In a speech to the Scottish parliament, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, will explain how she wants to hold a vote in October next year. But with Westminster refusing to grant the permission that would make a proper independence referendum legally binding, a straight re-run of 2014 seems unlikely, and Strugeon is expected to set out instead plans for some form of alternative, perhaps consultative, referendum. Quite what this would achieve is not clear.

My colleague Archie Bland goes into this in detail in his First Edition briefing. Here is an extract.

One view is that if Labour wins the next election, the momentum behind independence is likely to dissipate somewhat, so it’s better to strike now. Perhaps more importantly, Severin Carrell, the Guardian’s Scotland editor, argues “it will shore the SNP up ahead of the next UK general election. Even if the economics are harder than they were a decade ago, it is helpful for them to argue that Scotland’s hopes of independence are being thwarted in Westminster.”

For a sense of how powerful a force independence is even in its absence, you only need to look at the SNP’s longstanding dominance in Scotland despite its inability to achieve its ultimate aim – so far, at least. “The history of the last 15 years is that the SNP very rarely loses in these situations,” Severin said. “It rarely gets everything it wants, but it gains something else.”

And here is the full briefing.

The opposition parties in Scotland have accused Sturgeon of wasting time on a divisive issue when she should be facing on the immediate problems facing Scotland.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said:

It is no surprise that Nicola Sturgeon is ramping up her efforts to sow division and strife when we see the chaos in her party and the failures of her government.

She says to listen to the people of Scotland – but she refuses to herself, forging ahead with an unwanted referendum and ignoring people’s desperate cries for help with the cost of living crisis.

And the Scottish Conservatives accused Sturgeon of “self-indulgence and irresponsibility”.

Nicola Sturgeon’s obsessive push for another divisive independence referendum is the height of self-indulgence and irresponsibility.

She should start listening to Scotland and get back to the day job. pic.twitter.com/YudtXiVZec

— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) June 27, 2022

I will be covering the statement this afternoon, but there is plenty of other politics on too. Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders attend the final session of the G7 summit in Germany. Later he will travel to Madrid for the start of the Nato summit.

11am: Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, gives evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee.

11am: Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, gives evidence to the Commons business committee.

11.30am: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.

12.30pm: Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster, proposed a 10-minute rule bill intended to ban politicians from lying.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

1.40pm: Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, gives a speech at the RUSI annual Land Warfare conference.

2pm: Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee about governance in the light of the Greensill scandal

2.10pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gives a speech to the Local Government Association conference in Harrogate.

2.20pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, gives a statement to MSPs about her plans for a referendum on the issue of Scottish independence.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

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